Cloverleaf's Nick Bailey puts up a shot in the first half of Friday's game against Field at Cloverleaf High School. (NICK CAMMETT/GAZETTE)
WESTFIELD TWP. — The Cloverleaf boys basketball team set two school records Friday — one for fewest points allowed in a game and the other for most colorful, outlandish suit ever worn on senior night.
The Colts also atoned for an earlier one-point loss to Field and kept alive their hopes of finishing second in the Portage Trail Conference Metro Division with an impressive 44-26 victory over the Falcons.
“That might be the best defensive effort I’ve ever seen,” third-year Cloverleaf coach Jack Banks said.
The 26 points allowed bettered the previous school record of 29, set Feb. 9, 1962 in a 27-point win over Highland, then matched Nov. 30, 1963 in a 19-point victory over Coventry and again on Dec. 19, 2017 in a 25-point triumph at Springfield.
Mixing a more aggressive version of Syracuse’s vaunted 2-3 zone with a 1-3-1 and man-to-man, the Colts (15-6, 9-4) held the Falcons (4-16, 3-10) to quarter scoring totals of six, six, eight and six points. Field, which committed approximately 40 turnovers, had no player score more than five points, shot 12-for-44 from the field (.273) and missed its only two free throws, which came after a technical foul.
“One of our big points coming in was ‘remember,’” said power forward and lone Cloverleaf senior Nick Bailey, who had six points and six boards. “Remember how they beat us the first time. Remember how it felt when they doubled us up in the first half. Remember what it felt like when we lost (54-53) at the end.”
Equally memorable was the extremely colorful suit the even more colorful Bailey wore to the game. Primarily sky blue with horizontal stretches of white and dotted with palm trees, he bought it for $25 at Kohl’s a few years back but hadn’t displayed it publicly until Friday. Complemented by sunglasses, black dress shoes and Bailey’s long black hair, it was a look Don Johnson couldn’t have pulled off in the 1980s television series “Miami Vice.”
“I figured since it fit me right when I tried it on, I couldn’t live without it,” Bailey said. “And it happened to be relatively cheap. That helped.”
The owner of a huge personality and blue-collar game, Bailey is known as the player most likely to forget one of Banks’ many offensive sets, but his genuinely warm personality makes him beloved by his teammates.
Bailey got a technical foul against the Falcons when he responded to an earlier push from a Field player by wagging his finger following a Cloverleaf hoop. After the game, he was affectionately described as “outgoing and out there” by sophomore teammate Nate Riley, but he fills a valuable role for the Colts.
“His energy is off the charts,” Banks said. “He’s a very likable kid and everybody loves him. I never have to call a play for him. When the ball goes up and there’s 10 guys going after it, usually it ends up in his hands.”
With the 6-foot-3 Bailey doing his customary dirty work, the Colts seized control of the game behind 6-5 center Sylar Jones (12 points, 5 rebounds) and 6-6 small forward Riley (5, 8, 6 assists) in the third period, going on a 12-2 run to take a 44-22 lead.
Cloverleaf also got nine points from shooting guard Cruz Severson, six points and five boards from point guard Brycen Holliday and four points and seven boards from reserve Matt Tanko, but this night belonged to Bailey.
“He’s a fun guy,” Riley said. “Even though he might not seem like it, he cares for you and he’s always there for you.”
The owner of a 3.2 grade-point average and 25 ACT score, Bailey is in his fourth year in the program, making him the only Cloverleaf player who was in high school before Banks arrived for the 2016-17 season. Perhaps even more than his younger teammates, he cherishes being a part of the Colts’ first winning season in 31 years.
“It’s been crazy,” he said. “From my freshman year, when I looked up to all the seniors and thought they were great when we went (2-21), to being 15-6, it’s the best feeling in the world.”
Bailey, who will attend Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona with the hope of becoming a pilot, is perfectly happy with his role on the team. He’s thrilled to be out there playing defense and grabbing rebounds, because he knows there are other players more adept at putting the ball through the hoop.
“I’m definitely outgoing and I’m emotional, sometimes a little too much, but I’m definitely thankful for my teammates and what we’ve accomplished,” Bailey said. “I’m not one of the more skilled players. I don’t dedicate my life to the sport. But when I’m on the court, no one is going to match my energy.”
Contact Rick Noland at email@example.com. Follow him @RickNoland on Twitter.
Cloverleaf 44, Field 26
FIELD 6 6 8 6 — 26
CLOVERLEAF 13 4 15 12 — 44
Field — Jahiem James 2-0-4, Logan Citraro 2-0-5, Jordan McComb 1-0-2, Carter Baumberger 0-0-0, Jacob Gartner 0-0-0, Nevada Lowden 2-0-5, Kyle Knapp 1-0-2, Connor Chesnut 0-0-0, Jacob Lupardus 2-0-4, Cameron Wohlwend 0-0-0, Bryson Silveus 0-0-0, Mason Campanelli 0-0-0, Matt Hall 0-0-0, Zack Davis 2-0-4. TOTALS: 12-0-26.
Cloverleaf — Nate Riley 2-1-5, Nick Bailey 3-0-6, Sylar Jones 6-0-12, Cruz Severson 4-0-9, Brycen Holliday 2-2-6, Matt Tanko 1-2-4, Tyler Webb 0-0-0, Logan Tierney 0-0-0, Ashton Newton 1-0-2. TOTALS: 19-5-44.
3-point goals — Citraro, Lowden, Severson. Rebounds — Field 17 (Citraro 4), Cloverleaf 34 (Riley 8). Assists — Field 8 (Baumberger 4), Cloverleaf 14 (Riley 6). Records — Field (4-16, 3-10), Cloverleaf (15-6, 9-4). Junior varsity — Field 46, Cloverleaf 34.